Azzurra's 's 2014 Halloween Costume Contest Entry: Isabela [Dragon Age II]

Azzurra

New Member
Hello! This is my costume of Isabela from Dragon Age II. Originally I made it for Dragon Con 2014, but I am wearing it to Halloween parties as well.

(Click to embiggen)

I had decided to make Isabela merely as a companion piece to a Morrigan costume, which I made for my friend who had never cosplayed before. I figured she would be more comfortable if we could pal around as a group, so I started to throw Isabela together in the weeks coming up to the con. For this reason, some parts of it were rushed or skipped over, but I'm still really happy with how it turned out.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am married to Volpin. This means I have some experience making costumes in collaboration with him, and that I have access to his shop and expertise as well as those of his shopmate, God Save The Queen Fashions.

That being said, the bulk of this costume was made by my hands, and I'll clearly indicate where I had assistance.

Part I: Research and prep

I always start by gathering a ton of reference images.


There's a novelty account on DeviantArt that I've found to be really helpful with very high-res images of costumes, even if it is a little creepy.


I made a list of the major parts of the costume to work off of, and started to gather materials. Lists always help me keep on track and prevent forgetting to make or buy parts.


Part II: The Boots

I struggle a lot with boots (see Cassandra and Kasumi). On those costumes, I put it off to the last because I didn't want to or know how to tackle it, so of course the boots were done in a hurried and unplanned way, leaving me disappointed with the whole costume. This time, I started with the boots to give it the attention it needed so as to overcome my limitations in this department.

Luckily, they were the same color as all the leftover garment split leather I had from when I made the Ancient Nord Armor [Skyrim], so I didn't have to buy any more leather. I did buy probably $70 in buckles, though. I got them from Hardware Elf, who had a great selection at the best price I could find, and shipping was always pretty quick.

Her boots are actually spats over shoes, which is great news, since that's easier than actually having to make thigh-high boots. I took measurements of my leg circumference at various distances using my knee as origin, since there's a seam at that joint. I decided to make the pattern straight at the front of of the leg, giving curve to the back seam. Don't look at these numbers too closely, but here's a chart I made to help me lay it out. There are four pieces to each spat, not including the cuff at the top. The shape is symmetrical for the inner and outer leg as well as left leg to right leg.


I knew the top and bottom edges would have to curve, but didn't really know how to account for that in the pattern. So I just made sure that the pieces were at least as long as I needed, then marked and cut the curve after I had the four pieces together on my leg. This strategy worked satisfactorily, even if it wasted a little bit of material.

I used an industrial sewing machine with a walking foot to put these together. All seams were topstitched on both sides as in the reference art. I joined the upper and lower pieces first (the horizontal seam). Second, I installed the zipper at the back seam. The zipper was very tricky and frustrating, as installing zippers is inherently difficult, which was then compounded by leather being stiff and unable to take pins as well as by the curve of the back of my leg. I cut a lot of triangles and snips in the seam allowance, and used double-sided masking tape to baste the zipper to the leather leather and under the seam allowance when topstitching it down. These awesome clips were also very helpful.

After the zipper was in, I joined and topstitched the front seams. For the circle-shaped cutout at the knee, I turned the leather under, tacked it down with leather weld, then topstiched it onto some matching brown spandex. I'm not sure what material is supposed to be there at the knee, but spandex made the most sense to me for the purposes of walking and sitting down. The spandex piece spans the boot width and is handstitched to the zipper sides, as I was hoping that the tautness of it would help keep these puppies up while I walked.

Alas, that didn't really work. For the con, I had to employ fashion tape, which was also a mistake because the weight of the leather pulling down on that one section of my skin ended up giving me welts. For Halloween, I've installed a pair of criss-crossing garter straps on the inner portion of the spats, the back strap leading to the front of the garter belt and vice versa for the front strap. These are hidden by the shirt unless I decide to do splits or the Captain Morgan pose.

I made the cuffs out of some $10 garment lambskin, basically by stitching with right-sides together on 3 edges, turning to right-side out, then top stitching. Here's a shot right before adding the belting.

I made the belting by hand out of the garment split, using a rotary cutter and a strap end punch. I just marked the placement while wearing the spat and stitched them down.

The boots were finished once I bought some brown leather shoes and glued the straps to them with barge cement.

Boots!

Part III: The shirt

I chose a linen for the fabric because I figured that the texture of the weave and the irrepressible wrinkling of linen would take care of the weathering/aging of the piece for me.

I started with a pattern made by Cathy at God Save the Queen Fashions, but her client was somewhat larger than I, so I had to modify it quite a bit. Here's a piece of my altered muslin mock-up on top of her original pattern piece:


The corset pattern has two pieces for each side of the back, with a zipper in the middle, and two pieces for each side of the front, which are seamed in the middle. You can see the four pattern pieces in a photo a little further down the page.
The center front section is a little weird because of the lacing. It, like, goes through the shirt.

Thanks, video game artists.

So I constructed it such that the panel with the grommets folds over the innermost panel, hiding the button holes through which the lacing comes back through the shirt. The buttonhole foot was my best friend for this part. The folded-over piece also functions as a casing for boning.


The side pieces for both the front and the back have faux seams where I just stitched a channel for boning. It's not a real corset, and I didn't really need those seams to achieve the fit I wanted. At the actual seams, I made boning channels by stitching down one of the seam allowances. There's a pintuck stitched through the center of each "panel" and decorative zig-zag/satin stitching around the perimeter, which is not only accurate but I think gives the piece some nice character. I had just enough of that color thread for it, too:


For the boning, I used some spiral steel I had laying around. Turned out I didn't have any boning tips lying around with it, so I used some heat shrink tubing, thankful for this tutorial.

The patterns of the upper shirt portion include one piece for the back cut on the fold and one piece for the front cut twice for left and right. Actually, all the shirt pieces were cut in quadruplicate to make a lining layer (as opposed to just cutting two for left and right), otherwise white linen is see-through. Izzy's a tramp, but she's gotta have some secrets.

I'm lazy, so I actually cut double-folded, but don't be like me, because the pieces do not come out the same shape through that many layers.

The pattern for the collar was painstakingly draped using muslin on a body form in order to get it to lay the way I wanted. You can see in the photo above that I ended up with a ridiculous dart and an L-shaped edge for collar part of the back. Means to an end, I guess. The dart for the bosom is a truncated princess seam and came straight off of the pattern from Cathy, God save her.

I first stitched the front pieces to the back pieces at the shoulder/collar seam, then, right sides together, I joined the lining to the shell at the armholes and collar opening. There is a tiny bit of interfacing in the front of the collar section to get it to keep shape. Once turned and pressed, those edges were topstitched with two overlapping, offset zigzag stitches, because I couldn't get any of my machine's decorative stitches to come out the way I wanted, and also because I'm a little manic about this kind of thing.


The upper shirt parts were then joined to the top of the corset with a 5/8 seam allowance. Once together, I hemmed the sides and made boning channels out of the seam allowances.

The lower skirt patterns were simply draped from the bottom edge of the corset pieces. They are self-lined and were attached to the corset in such a way as to encase the seam allowance. Where they join to the corset, the edges of the skirt have a 5/8 seam allowance. However, I turned in and pressed only 1/2" of the seam allowance of the lining side. I joined the shell side and corset with a 5/8" seam allowance, so when I flipped it down and pressed it, the folded edge of the lining side came up 1/8" past the seam I had just made. Then I just stitched "in the ditch" at the seam, which caught the top edge of the lining, thus encasing the raw bottom edges of the corset. I sure hope that made sense, because I forgot to take photos of the process.

After it was all together, I created faux panels in the front skirt with a twin needle, and I also hammered in the grommets at the front and sides.


The front was laced with a length of paracord. For the side straps connecting the corsetted part, I used woven polyester casing, because I had it and it matched, and for the top 2 straps connecting the upper shirt parts, I used non-slip elastic which made it easier to breath and to get in and out of the shirt. I satin-stitched the raw edges of the straps after putting them through the grommets, and the bulk of the stitching is what holds the straps in the grommets, thereby holding the shirt front and back together. It's surprisingly sturdy.


I supposed I could mention the underwear, as they required some effort but don't warrant their own section. Izzy's undies are just brown (try not to think about why) briefs, but it was shockingly difficult to find a bikini bottom in brown. I ended up having to buy a pair in a lighter color and dye them.

Part III: Scarf and Sash


This will be a short section because I have no progress photos of these pieces. Sorry!

I sourced the fabric from Fabric.com, and it was an incredibly lucky find because a) it was the most perfect pattern match I could have ever hoped for and b) it was ridiculously affordable.

I happen to have a body double that includes my head, so I put my wig on it and draped the scarf pattern muslin. The fabric part ends just behind the ears, and attaches to some soft black elastic which clasps at the nape under the hair. I skipped the gold decorative edging because of time, but if I get the chance, I'd like to go back and stencil it on.


The wig is from eBay, and I intended to cut it to the proper length but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Long hair is so pretty.

The hip sash was completed in about half an hour. I just laid the fabric out, folded it on the bias, cut out a triangle, tied it to me, and cut it until it was the shape I wanted. I handstitched a few gathers into place, and machine stitched the edges about 1/4" in, leaving the edges raw. I used a little turquoise skull bead attached to some jute to weigh down the long side of the sash so that it would hang correctly. It's not canon, but I liked it and I think Izzy would have liked it too.


Part IV: Arms

For her gloves, I bought a pair of vintage unlined kid gloves from Etsy and cut off the fingertips at the knuckles. I cut the length of the glove off at the base of the palm, then made the cuffs out of the part I cut off, keeping the original finished edge. Again, due to time, I had to skip the little armored bits on the gloves.

The leftover garment split also provided for the forearm brace of the left arm. I measured from wrist to roughly 2" away from the elbow bend, and I took the circumference of my wrist with the glove on and the circumference of my forearm. That gave me the basic shape. Some top stitching around the edges, two squares of velcro affixed with barge cement, and 3 more godforsaken buckled straps gave me a bracer. The velcro holds it on, but the straps actually hold it into place.


We got the pattern for the armor pieces from GSTQ and scaled it to me. For the "metal" parts, Harrison (Volpin) laser-cut the raised decoration layer from Worbla then affixed it to the base Worbla shape. He used a heat gun to give them a compound curve. After priming and silver spray paint, he airbrushed on some weathering.



To hold the elbow guards on, I glued them to a backing made of garment split, to which was sewn some small buckled straps that I made from chrome-tan leather scraps. Chrome-tan is softer than veg-tan and the garment split, so I figured it would make the most comfortable straps for my arms. I did use veg-tan for the scales that come down from the pauldron, and stained them darker to match. I tried to weather it a bit with some sandpaper, but the stain is so dark that it's hard to tell. The rivets attach them to a couple of narrow strips of leather that go up to the pauldron, where they are glued down with barge cement. The rivets on the bottom and middle scale also attach the chrome-tan straps to the piece, and the straps actually hold the thing onto my bicep.

(The pic above is in a mirror. The armor goes on the left arm.)

Part V: Jewelry

My favorite part. I'm super proud of how these turned out.

The necklace is mostly Worbla. I formed the main piece using a plastic mannequin as a buck, trimmed it to shape, then wrapped the edges. I superglued down some chain for the decorative parts at the edge.

(Constantly refer to source images!)

I added few more bits of chain and Worbla, sculpted that rope decoration from Worbla using a hot knife, and then filled in the voids with some thick goop to merge the texture of the chain to the Worbla.


Harrison primed and painted it for me. There's a base coat of Rustoleum hammered gold spray paint, then a top coat of gloss acrylic gel medium with SmoothOn's Goldfinger filler in it.

I bought a few resin cabochons and picked the one with the best color. Harrison sanded it down to shape and glued it in.

Harrison also constructed the snake heads for me. He encased some thick-gauge wire in EVA foam then carved it into a tube shape. The wire allowed us to bend it around until it sat the way we wanted. Then he wrapped it in Worbla so that the texture would match the rest of the necklace. He sculpted the snake heads from Worbla around a urethane egg, carving details with a hot knife.


For the coins, I drew a vector illustration based off the reference images. I just found a pirate-y font for the text around the perimeter. Test cut in cardboard to assess scaling:


I laser-cut and etched them out of acrylic sheet, then weathered them a bit with some sandpaper and a rotary tool on the edges. I also used a heat gun to slightly deform them, which I think helped a lot to make them seem more like metal. I drilled holes for the jump rings that hold them together and to the necklace, and Harrison painted and weathered these along with the rest of the necklace.


I glued earring posts to the backs of two of the coins for the earrings. I heat-deformed these more than the others because they look kind of domed in the game art.


Another lucky purchase was the snake bracelet she wears, which I got off Amazon for a couple bucks. It was cheap and scratchy metal, especially once I bent it to fit my forearm, so I backed it with a bead of hot glue to make it more comfortable to wear. I also bought a gold magnetic faux labret stud, though in the future I'll just adhere it to my face with spirit gum, because the pinching of the magnet is very uncomfortable.

Part VI: Daggers

Harrison made the daggers for me out of EVA foam. He sandwiched some wire and a few neodymium magnets in between two pieces of EVA foam. I sewed magnets in corresponding places on my bra strap so that the daggers would "float" on my back like they do in the game.


He sculpted them with a rotary tool then gently applied a heat gun to get rid of the fuzz that results from dremeling foam.


He created the detail lines by cutting with an x-acto then lightly applying the heat gun to cause the cuts to widen into channels


Lastly, he primed, painted, and weathered them in the same manner as my armor and jewelry. In this photo, one dagger has weathering in the seams, while the other does not.


Bonus photos

Since I put it on for Halloween anyway, we went and got some shots of Izzy having a pint or two at the Hanged Man (Iron Horse Tavern, whatever)








With my Morrigan friend:

(Click to embiggen)

At the Dragon Con parade:

(Click to embiggen)

Floating daggers:


- - - Updated - - -

Proof that I'm me!

 

Honus

Sr Member
Really impressive costume and very nice write up! I know nothing about sewing and working with fabrics so I always appreciate it when people share how costumes like this are made.
 

SKS Props

Sr Member
Very nice work from you and Harrison as usual :)
I can make a helmet no problem, but fabric work always blows me away you did a great job!
 
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